Petrus, bp. of Sebaste
Petrus (41), bp. of Sebaste, the youngest brother of Basil the Great
and Gregory Nyssen, and the last of the ten children of Basil the elder and
Emmelia. His father died almost immediately after his birth, which must be placed
before a.d. 349 (Greg. Nys.
de Vit. S. Macr. ii. 185). His sister Macrina, more than 20 years his senior,
adopted her infant brother as her special charge, proving herself, in Gregory
Nyssen's words; "not only his sister, but his father, mother, tutor, and warder"
(παιδαγωγός). When Macrina and her mother
retired to their religious retreat on the banks of the Iris, Peter accompanied
them, where, according to his brother, he proved all in all to them, working
with them towards the angelical life. He shared the high physical and mental
endowments of the family. His acquirements were very varied, and he had a natural
gift for handicrafts, in which, without any direct instruction, he excelled
as much as in intellectual pursuits (ib. 186). He assisted by manual
labour to support his mother and sister, and the large crowds attracted in time
of scarcity by their reputation for charity. For some years his brother Basil
was his near neighbour on the other side of the Iris, where he had established
a monastery for male ascetics, in the presidency of which Peter succeeded him
when in 365 he was finally recalled to Caesarea by bp. Eusebius. He was ordained
presbyter by Basil, c. 370 (ib. 187). He was present with Macrina
at their mother's death-bed,
373, and was offered by her as her tenth to God (ib. 186). He continued
to reside in his monastery till after Basil and Macrina died in 379. In 380
he was ordained bishop, probably of Sebaste in Lesser Armenia, on the death
or deposition of Eustathius. That Peter was bp. of Sebaste is accepted without
question by Tillemont (Mém. eccl. ix. 574). Nicephorus, however, a somewhat
untrustworthy authority, is the first writer who names his see (H. E.
xi. 19). Theodoret (H. E. v. 8) and Suidas (sub voc.
Βασίλειος, i. 539) simply style him a bishop,
without naming his diocese. He took part in the council of Constantinople,
a.d. 381 (Theod. u.s.).
Olympias, the deaconess, the friend of Chrysostom, entrusted large funds to
him for distribution to the poor (Pallad. p. 166). Tillemont places his death
between 391 and 394. The genius of Peter seems to have been rather practical
than literary. Rufinus, instituting a comparison between the three brothers,
says that the two younger combined equalled Basil; Gregory in word and doctrine,
and Peter in the works of faith (Rufin. ii. 9). Theodoret remarks that, though
Peter had not received such a training in classical literature as his brothers,
τῆς θύραθεν παιδείας οὐ μετειληχὼς σὺν ἐκείνοις,
he was equally conspicuous in the splendour of his life (H. E. iv. 30).
But though undistinguished in theological literature himself, several of his
brother Gregory's most important works were written at his instigation; e.g.
as we learn from the proems, the two treatises supplementary to his brother
Basil's Hexaemeron, the Explicatio Apologetica and the de Hominis
Opificio (Greg. Nys. Opp. i. 1, 44). The latter treatise was sent
to Peter as an Easter gift. Gregory's great doctrinal work against Eunomius
was due to his brother's entreaties that he would employ his theological knowledge
to refute that heretic, and disprove the charges brought by him against Basil
(ib. ii. 265, 266). Gregory's original intention was to limit his refutation
to the first of Eunomius's two books. But Peter wrote a letter to him, his only
extant literary production (ib. 168), entreating him to strike with the
zeal of a Phinehas both the heretical books with the same spiritual sword, which
he knew so well how to wield. The language and style of this letter shew Peter
as not intellectually inferior to the more celebrated members of his family
(Tillem. Mém. eccl. ix. 572–580).